A TV advertisement released by the Argentine government showing an Olympic athlete training on the Falkland/Malvinas – “Argentine soil” – has been branded as insensitive, disrespectful and cheap propaganda by both islanders and UK officials.
The commercial, which features Argentine field hockey star Fernando Zylberberg running and training in the most recognisable landmarks on the Falklands islands, ends with the line, “To compete on English soil, we train on Argentinean soil.”
British Foreign Minister, William Hague, labeled it as a “political manoeuvre” and an attempt to “exploit the Games.”
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office declared: “The Olympics is about sport and not politics. We are also dismayed at the insensitivity and disrespect demonstrated by the film-makers in their use of a war memorial in the Falklands as a prop.”
The spot was produced by the publicity firm Young&Rubicam and allegedly shot clandestinely by two US directors, so as not to arouse suspicion among the islands’ population. Today, however, the firm has distanced itself from the political twist the releasing of the commercial has taken. “We strongly condemn this work and have asked the Argentine government to pull the spot. While we don’t believe it was ever the intention of the ad’s creator to desecrate a war memorial, they behaved in a manner that is unacceptable to our company. Furthermore it is against our policy to be involved in anything that is politically motivated. In addition, this spot was also offensive to the Olympics spirit. Whatever it was the creators set out to highlight, what they produced is contrary to everything that we as a company stand for.”
The firm allegedly took advantage of the Standard Chartered Stanley Marathon, on the 18th March, to shoot the commercial. Argentine runners Florencia Lamboglia and Franco Díaz also took part in shooting the video.
In the clip, which only features Zylberberg, the hockey player is shown frowning at a Union flag, before starting a hard training throughout the eastern island and doing step-ups on the memorial to those who fell in the first world war.
Ian Hansen, member of the Falkland/Malvinas legislative assembly, told La Nacion that the video was shot “without islands’ authorities knowing about it.”
“Sadly, it illustrates the lack of respect Argentine authorities have for our home and our people. Predictably, the video doesn’t show any of the islands’ inhabitants, a clear reflection of Argentine politics pretending that islanders don’t exist at all,” he added.
The commercial was proposed to the Casa Rosada as an act of homage to the fallen of the war fought against Britain 30 years ago. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner eventually agreed to give the state endorsement to the video.
Newspaper La Nacion reports that, ironically, the agency responsible for the commercial, Young&Rubicam, belongs to the British advertisement holding WPP, one of the biggest in the world; additionally, the field hockey player, Zylberberg, is a consultant for Alvaro González, vice minister of the Buenos Aires’ city government ruled by Mauricio Macri – a fierce political adversary of President Fernández.
Zylberberg yesterday said he did not know that the Argentine government had bought the ad and that he will still “keep working for the PRO party.” [Mauricio Macri’s party]